Just the quickest entry today to wish a very Happy New Year to all and sundry out there on the internets. To celebrate, here's a shot of my youngest niece Anna on Christmas morning. Little bit of flash-induced red eye and harsh lighting going on, but I think that she and her camera and Hello Kitty still come off as pretty cute.
We worked on that puzzle together until her Grandma and Grandpa came over for the Holiday events. 'Twas fun.
For now - I hope that everyone has a safe and amazingly fun time tonight, and the best 009 imaginable (this is the last year we'll be able to celebrate double-Os for almost a thousand years - make the most of it!!)
Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Just the quickest entry today to wish a very Happy New Year to all and sundry out there on the internets. To celebrate, here's a shot of my youngest niece Anna on Christmas morning. Little bit of flash-induced red eye and harsh lighting going on, but I think that she and her camera and Hello Kitty still come off as pretty cute.
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Well, I was out in Phoenix visiting the Fam for Xmas - had a great time and took a bunch of photos, including a lot with the new lense my adoring and adorable sister got for me. I'll be posting some of those soon: however, I haven't been able to upload them to this computer yet (and forgot to bring the cable with me today). SO - for now you will have to content yourself with this shot that I'm swiping from said sister's blog. I don't feel the least bit bad about it, because I actually took this one myself, just with her camera.
While we were out shooting bottles with pellet guns in the desert (and you thought my family was boring!) I thought it would be fun to get a shot of my niece Mary in Patty Hearst mode.
Anyway, I had a great time, and it's very good to be back.
And in sad news, Freddie Hubbard died today, only 70. One of the greats, and although he hasn't been all that active the last several years, he'll be missed. Great full life - and if you want to listen to him, WKCR has paused their fantastic and brilliant Bach Festival to have a fantastic and brilliant marathon tribute to Freddie. If you can handle listening to Phil Schaap blather on interminably from time to time (I know, I know - Phil's a legend himself, and one of if not THE most knowledgeable jazz aficionados out there, but: sometimes I just want him to shut up and spin some music), it is most definitely a broadcast worth a listen.
Ave atque vale, Freddie.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Yo La Tengo finally took the stage in a blaze of holiday fury. Well, ok, it was more of a good natured shuffle, including commentary on the Menorah (sitting proudly on the piano) which had the wrong candle lit the night before, according to them. Then as they picked up instruments there was a quip that non-earplug portion of the evening had about 3 minutes to go. Which minutes were spent on a loverly version of The Weakest Part, and then, true to their word they launched loudly into a fiery fast version of Big Day Coming.
That photo looks like total crap, but I actually love it because it represents how impossible it was to capture Ira in action on keys, vocals and maraccas on that song. Total action, as Steve would say.
The show was wholly rocking throughout - vintage YLT, with a Velvet Underground cover (Guess I'm Falling in Love), cashmere "hits" (does Yo La Tengo have "hits"? Anyway, they did Autumn Sweater), relative rarities old (Five Cornered Drone) and new (Watch Out for me Ronnie), and collaborations with their guests.
Gotta love that pink sparkly 12-string, right??
They brought it all home with an orgasmic Story of Yo La Tengo and then brought Stephin back up to do some Irving Berlin (Be Careful, It's My Heart - thank you Yo La Blog)
Then came Super Secret Guest #3: Doug Gillard, of the later years of Death of Samantha and some of the highest peak moments of Guided by Voices. They started with George Gershwin's Foggy Day in London Town - this being Hanukkah, a premium was placed on the Jewish American Songbook, to universal acclaim (the universe for the purposes of this discussion consisting of the collected contents of Maxwell's)
The encore set was low-key amazing - more covers, natch. Culminated in "Next Big Thing" which was a perfect lead in for the Super Secretest Guest of them all...
...Ira's mom, who sang "My Little Corner of the World" Fun was had, tears of joy were shed. My understanding is that she comes to sing this at one show every year, but I've never had the fortune to be there before.
Did someone say Hanukkah Miracle? Remember, we were this close to missing not only this show, but the whole series of benefits at Maxwell's (this is a good place to mention that the worthwhile causes for this night's show were Burma Border Projects, and Burmese Refugee Project) Maybe I need to bring a representative of the 12 Tribes to all their shows...
Before I go on to describe the amazingness that was the headline act of the Hanukkah shows, I feel a responsibility to report on the garb worn by The Magnetic Fields. Being that I'm a fashion maven these days and all. They all had on shirts with the names of famous Art Film Directors done up in fonts associated with heavy metal bands. To wit, Stephin Merritt wore a cotton shoutout to Werner Fassbinder:
Now, perhaps I shouldn't admit that I've never seen Berlin Alexanderplatz, but I lose no props admitting that I know Metallica lettering when I see it, do I?
The rest of the band was rounded out by homages to Ingmar Bergman (Iron Maiden), De Palma (Def Leppard), and Ozu (Ozzy Osbourne, natch).
'Twas then a bit ironic that it was so wintery, even in the club, that they had to wear said shirts under jackets and over sweatshirts; but wear them they did, and for that they're due Collective Fashion Credit.
SO - it won't come as a surprise to most of you that I can be, well, kind of dumb sometimes. That came up recently as I made plans to take Cory to the Big Opening Night of Hanukkah concert by one of my fave bands, Hoboken's own Yo La Tengo (I've written about these shows before. In fact, it occurs to me that word for word, this may well be every bit as much a Yo La Tengo blog as a Dylan blog). Rather, I thought I'd made plans to see the show on the first night of Hanukkah - what I'd actually done was buy tickets for the 3rd night of Hanukkah, and then somehow convince my reliably unreliable memory otherwise to the extent that I made other, unchangeable plans for that same night.
D'oh! YLT would have to go...
Or would they? Out of nowhere, Cory came up with a pair of tickets for the 2nd night of the Legendary Yo La Tengo Hanukkah Benefit Shows at Maxwells, 2008 Version. (well, it seemed like it was out of nowhere... On the other hand, Cory is one of the Chosen People. Coincidence? You tell me.)
So we were off to Maxwell's for what promised to be a night of good rockin'.
And, ladies and gentlemen, that's what we got, with a lot more thrown in for good measure.
The opening band was The Magnetic Fields, rock artistes extraordinaire. Literate, textured, adventurous, funny, sexy, savvy, hip: what more do you want from four people wielding a guitar, a piano (a real piano, people!) a cello and a bouzouki. Think Leonard Cohen meets the Moldy Peaches, but better.
Ok, it's true. These photos were taken with my cell phone. SO - they kind of suck. But I didn't want to be lugging a camera around for this: can you blame me?
Anyway, they were a great way to open the evening. Universal rejoicing.
Next was the comedy portion of the evening, brought to us by everyone's favorite PC, Johnathan Hodgman.
Yes, that's a martini in his hand, and I think it's only fair. He was, after all, the evening's resident Lapsed Catholic, and I daresay he needed some fortification. Later on, he rocked the ukelele for the sultry Santa Baby. This after a diatribe on the tawdry sexuality that you perhaps didn't realize lurked within Christmas Carols. Beyond I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus, beyond Earth Kitt growling Santa Baby, beyond Christmas is Coming (the goose is getting fat), beyond the Valley of the Dolls, there's the inescapable nastiness of When Santa Got Stuck Up the Chimney.
Or at least that's Johnathan's story, and he's sticking to it.
That's it for the opening act. The main event comes later.
Friday, December 05, 2008
In honor of a beverage that I enjoy some version of almost every day, here's a reblog to Christoph Niemann's piece in the Times from a couple days ago. It's fun, includes lots of good images, and can be digested in small doses.
I am not one of those people who absolutely cannot start the day without some java , but I do like to drink it. A lot. [Those of you pro-health/anti-joy people out there should know that I usually mix caffeinated and decaf to mollify the negative health effects, although sometimes that just gives me an excuse to have more.] And I am one of those people who has a grinder and four separate ways of making coffee set up in his apartment ready to go at a moment's notice:
- Ye olde coffee maker - Mr. Coffee himself, ol' reliable.
- French Press - gift to myself for my birthday, thanks to a gift card from Lauretta.
- Espresso/Cappucino maker - one of the cheapos, with a not-really-powerful-enough steamer, but it does the trick.
- Manual Drip Funnel - when done right, maybe the best of all. Yum!
So there that is. I will surely get a cup of something good to celebrate this entry.
Thursday, December 04, 2008
...Blog-wise. Hey, it happens.
So I've decided to get myself back in the habit a little by entering posts for the next few days in a row if I can manage it. Maybe it'll spur me to write something more substantial, and if not, at least I'm putting something out there while I'm in production week of what may be the most puzzling show I've worked on in many years (maybe since Bits of String, way back when I still lived in Boston).
More on that later. For now, as I finish a rather nice portobello mushroom bisque, I'll show you some shots from this year's T-day in Peterborough, NH (you remember T-day, right?)
First, here's Molly making magic in the kitchen:
That'd be the beginning of her legendary broccoli cheese extravaganza.
Next, here we have Eliza, the lady of the house, wondering what's up with all the people.
She's awfully cool, though. And a couple days after we left, her mom wrote that she kept asking for 'the people'
Speaking of her mom, here's Rebecca, the hostess extraordinaire.
Here's one of the pie-making part of the party.
Notice there are not one, not two, but FIVE people involved with making crusts and fillings. And this was just one of several sessions. Couldn't resist being what SueBee (naturally) called the Pieparazzi. And, especially for my readers in Beijing, check out the beard that Chris is sporting these days.
Last but not least, here's a shot of the field trip we took to downtown Peterborough, to start up the turkey ovens (we needed three ovens for all the cooking, roasting and baking we did) and get a taste of Our Town today. (Did you know that Grover's Corners was based on Peterborough? Well, it was.)
As if we weren't having enough fun with the tandem stroller, we visited an antique shop, arty places, kitchy places, and Tamiko even picked up a heavy-duty log grabber for her fire pit in Boston. 'Twas a cold and blustery day, but the walk was well worth it.
Hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving, and is enjoying the holiday season.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
The premise here is that if you have a blog and leave a comment on this post, I’ll assign you a letter. You take that letter and make a list of 10 things you love that begin with that letter. Then, you pass on the letter love to the bloggers who make comments on your post. (Or, if you don't have a blog, comment or email me and we'll go from there.) It’s creative and social!
I got this from walkalong, and the letter I got is Y.
SOOOOoooooo.... In no particular order:
1) Yo La Tengo -
3) The Yes Men - both the movie and (especially) the performing/activist group.These are the guys who brought the suit shown above to a meeting of the World Trade Organization and held their attention for an entire presentation. The guys who orchestrated the switching of voice chips between talking G.I. Joe and talking Barbie. During the Holiday Season. Like Improv Everywhere but bolder.
7) 92nd Street Y - Cultural center, community center, performance space, important to New York. I've performed there, and I've seen and heard LOTS of good stuff there. Did you know that this is a YMHA, not a YMCA? You probably did.
8) Yoga - Sure, I don't practice as often or as intensely as I could, but I love it nonetheless. My daily practice has slipped to the wayside the last couple weeks. Maybe this list will spur me to get back into that.
9) Y chromosomes - You know, those little microscopic things that pair up with X chromosomes to make a person a boy instead of a girl. I wouldn't say that I prefer Y to X inherently, but let's take this opportunity to celebrate maleness.
10) Yoni - Let's take this opportunity to celebrate femaleness. I think it's fair to acknowledge a love of Yoni. Not all Yonis. And NOT Yanni. But, the idea of Yoni, the right Yoni, the Yoni for me, yeah, we can celebrate that.
This installment has been brought to you by the letter Y.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
There's a big rally at the Latter Day Saints' Temple in New York today opposing California's horrifically bigoted Proposition 8, which revoked Gay Marriage in that state, along with the other anti-equality ballot initiatives that passed last week. The good news is that it would seem a foregone conclusion that these laws (and all like it) will be struck down by the courts. It seems likely to me that eventually (soon?) the U.S. Supreme Court will hand down a ruling covering the whole nation - similar to the one that revoked all laws banning interracial marriages in 1967.
For now, we have to contend with "religious" groups acting out their sexist fears in appalling ways. Well, I guess we appall each other. Don't mean to offend any Mormons who have seen the light (or what I call the light - you know, that thing that clarifies sight). As for any of the closed-minded ones who happen to be reading this, I'd recommend that you let go of your fear, if you're in the mood to listen to my recommendations.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Life has been busy for us all, yes? Quick notes for now about some (certainly not all) of the things that have been going on:
- Election Party at Cory's in Chelsea - so much fun, such good company, such an amazing, important night. Missed out on some of the dancing in the streets, but got the benefit of very good food & drink, and more reflective revelry.
- South Park Election Episode - Bwahahahahaaaaaaa!
- (Not) Just a Day like Any Other - New full-length show from the NY Neo Futurists. Caught opening night - very cool workshop production, seeds for future brilliance.
- The Hold Steady at Terminal 5 - Rock and Roll Means Well
more to come... lost the links due to some computer nonsense. I'll fix those up later.
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
It's kind of worn territory to say that this is an historic election. Kind of really well worn. What can I add to the discussion? Report that the lines were longer in Hoboken than they've ever been, in my experience? Old news.
That the people in those lines were friendlier and more cheerful to be waiting than people on almost any line I can remember? (other than maybe the lunatics - including me - who stayed out all night for R.E.M. tickets freshman year, but I think there was vodka involved.) It's all over the radio and the internets.
That I'm happy that my polling place was moved from the firehouse to the retirement home a few years ago, because the line at the firehouse was MUCH longer - like, out the door and around the corner long? [Ok, that one may actually be original - though I should add that the people in that line looked pretty happy too.]
That a friend in Brooklyn reported things like being 33rd in line at a quarter to 6 this morning, and another referred to the crowd at the polls being "a bit of a Bed Stuy street party"? This stuff has been ALL OVER THE MEDIA. Oh, and a Bed Stuy blogger whose work I like a lot had a good post on that scene too. Really like his tag line: "Let's make some goddamned history."
So while the Supreme Court listens to arguements over just what constitutes a dirty word on TV, let's do that, shall we? Let's make history. Go to the polls; cast your vote; listen to 'Yes We Can,' or 'Give Peace a Chance,' or 'Fanfare for the Common Man,' or 'Stars and Stripes Forever' or 'I'm Proud to be an American' or whatever, on your way home; do some door-to-door or make some calls if you can spare the time; then gather with friends and lovers to watch the returns over some patriotic food.
But take it from a Red Sox fan: take it vote by vote. Please consider leaving the Champagne in the fridge until you hear a concession speech.
Sunday, November 02, 2008
Welcome to November. Hope you had a Happy Halloween. If you are running the Marathon, I hope you are doing it swiftly, and with no extreme discomfort.
The Month of Mick is over. Now, it's all about Getting Out the Vote.
Are you ready for Tuesday? Will you vote? No matter how long the line is?
There has been some fun around this election - for instance the young gentleman in Decatur, Georgia who used Halloween to get out the vote.
There has also been some real nastiness. Lots and lots of nastiness. There is almost no end to the nastiness.
And not all of it has to do with the Presidential Election. There are many important State Elections, including the now-famous Proposition 8 in California. Which is essentially a manifesto of intolerance couched in terms of protecting traditional values.
Is it an exaggeration to compare same-sex marriage to interracial marriage? Is it unfair to suggest that the culture war that is fueling the McCain/Nameless campaign - indeed keeping it alive in the face of overwhelming opposition - is couched in racism and fear? (to clarify for those who wonder why I refer to her this way, I refuse to name her until she makes herself available to the media in a serious way. My heart was warmed when I saw that Christopher Hitchens wrote an article to this effect as well.) I don't think so.
But everywhere you look, people are responding to the hate with logic, eloquent rhetoric, tenacity, and positive energy. And also with some silly good humor. Lots of people. Millions and millions of them.
Some in places you wouldn't necessarily think of. Like Nebraska.
And even Arizona, in groups large and small.
Is it a real movement? It has felt like it at times. I hope it is (and those of you who have known me for a long time know that this whole 'support a Democrat who actually has the nomination' thing is kind of a step to the right for me.) Because it's only through real social movement, with follow up that goes way beyond the election that real change actually happens. And there are moments that this feels like that. And the momentum has felt strong. Dizzyingly so at times. Right now in the key 'battleground state' (man, those war images keep popping up) of Pennsylvania, Cory is getting out the vote in Pittsburgh, and will do her lawyer thing to make sure the polls are safe and fair on Tuesday; and JP is in his hometown of Erie, working insanely long hard hours in his unique fashion, and proving essential to the campaign as their resident 'local' - even advising on the location for an important Bill Clinton appearance on Monday.
Please keep your focus, and keep your energy. Take it moment to moment, as the actors say. Keep your eye on the ball, and take it pitch by pitch, as they say in baseball. Drive through to the finish line in your best final kick, as the marathon runners say.
Are you ready for Tuesday? Will you vote? Will you check on your friends to make sure they vote? Will you make a call to your family (or, if you have time, to a whole bunch of people) and find out if they need help getting to the polls, and that they will cast a vote? No matter how long the line is?
Please say yes. And please vote for Barack Obama.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Monday, October 27, 2008
Probably merely brilliant. Geniuses are really really Rare. Have we been down this road before?
And I'll want to write more about this man before long, but I'm very very short on time right now. However, I alluded to him last week, and I don't want to let another day go by before I devote a post to Mike Daisey.
He is a fascinating writer, performer, my new favorite blogger (do click on the link above, please) and one of the best monologists of our time, in my opinion. His new show If You See Something Say Something opens tonight at Joe's Pub, directed by his perennial partner Jean-Michele Gregory. I caught a preview a couple weekends ago, and I hope that this show gets the accolades it deserves. That would be nigh-unalloyed praise from the New York Times and Variety all rolled into one.
Ok, ok, I'm maybe getting a little overheated here. And I do have to run. But guys, for real: Go. See. This. Show.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Ok, I started writing this whole thing about Joe the Plumber and the fallout from all that; and the baseball playoffs and how the Red Sox had the big comeback that wasn't, but that it was still a good series and then it struck me - whoa, this is SO last week's post. Give it up!
SO - consider it given up. Moving on to this week.
On Monday (yes yes I know, that's still way behind. Leave me alone.) I went for the first time ever to see The Daily Show with Jon Stewart live and in person. It was very fun, though I have to say I'm not 100% convinced that it's worth the more than two hour wait between the time you show up and the time the show starts. I was with good friends and the weather was good, so it wasn't bad standing around on 11th Avenue, having some coffee and chatting it up with a guy I hadn't seen in a long time, but whoa - if it's cold or rainy, let somebody else have your seat.
That said - it was a very good show. He did a big segment on a notion that I was riffing on a couple of posts ago: the idea that people who aren't in love with the Bush administration are somehow not "Real" Americans, or that we may even be "Anti-America." Which is, to put it politely, bullsh*t.
*Asterisks are extremely polite
But there we had Senior McCain advisor Nancy Pfotenhauer going on about the "Real Virginians, if you will" who live away from the Sodom of Arlington and the Gomorrah of Alexandria, and we had the Candidate who Must Not be Named going on about the pockets of America "or as I like to call it, Real America" where people work hard and vote Republican. And Jon did a rather splendid job of skewering that notion - that those of us in Fake America don't work hard or have beliefs that we hold dear or love our country.
As he so aptly put it: Pfuck all y'all.
And then we got to see viddy of Jason Jones up in Wasilla, AK, where he got the opinion straight from the mouth of Dianne Keller, the current Mayor, that the job is "uniquivocally" good preparation for the office of Vice President of the United States. The good Mayor was then hard pressed to name a task that she is called on to do - AT ALL - beyond attending a staff meeting on Mondays, and writing some checks to pay the city's bills on Thursdays. And we found from a hard working local in a bar that 9/11 was a tremendous crisis to people in Wasilla, and that they had a great patriotic response to it, as opposed to the people who live in Fake America, who weren't as profoundly affected. Fake Americans like New Yorkers.
Take just a moment to wrap your minds around that one, would you please?
And the featured guest was author/filmmaker Eugene Jarecki, who made the movie "Why We Fight," and was plugging his new book The American Way of War: Guided Missiles, Misguided Men, and a Republic in Peril. Among the many interesting-unto-brilliant things he said was a thrown off comment about how watching The Daily Show is one of the most important ways Americans can spend their time.
That would be Fake Americans, I guess.
I don't know about it being one of the most important ways of spending time (especially when we're talking about that 2 hour wait), but it's a pretty durn good show.
Stay tuned for an exciting and fun post coming up soon, about one of my new favorite monologist/writer/bloggers. And enjoy the Series, even without the Sox or the Cubs or the other Sox or the Dodgers...
Friday, October 10, 2008
Wouldn't you know, less than an hour after I posted that last semi-rant, along came a little remedy:
'A little patience, and we shall see the reign of witches pass over, their spells dissolve, and the people, recovering their true sight, restore their government to its true principles.' --Thomas Jefferson
This was sent to me by Cory, who was sent it by her friend Tepper.
Without wanting to go off on another kind of rant, let me say that this also touches on another little pet peeve of mine: the idea that Liberals, Radicals, any dissenters to the current State of Affairs are somehow not Patriotic.
I am actually very Patriotic, but the type of Patriotic revealed in that quotation: the Thomas Jefferson patience and reason and integrity kind, not the do-whatever-the-president-happens-to-say kind.
For instance, it gives me national pride (in a states rights kind of way) to know that the Connecticut Supreme Court just approved the legal right of gay couples to marry. Want to read the ruling? Here's the ruling.
Thursday, October 09, 2008
I've only dipped into the reporting on the last presidential debate a little bit, and I must admit I've slacked off on my Election Attention in general the last few days (hey, it was my birthday - that takes some effort and planning!) But one thing that seems abundantly clear is that most people really have their minds made up already. And what people (candidates, supporters, campaign workers) say amongst themselves is pretty thoroughly different from what they say when they're in a debate or anything remotely official or bipartisan.
I mean - "palling around with terrorists"? Are you kidding me? Evidently not, because it's come up over and over. And when asked to defend her statements at her one and only sort-of press conference (an unannounced, unplanned-for visit to the press corps at the back of a plane for a few minutes), She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named said, and I quote:
Oof. That syntax. Whoops, that's one of those elite words, isn't it? Sorry about that. I meant "That way of putting words together that has nothing to do with sentences, complete ideas, or answering the f*cking question."
“It is, though, about the economy about creating jobs and about resource development and energy independence here. It comes down to one ticket’s proposal that can be trusted, and another ticket’s proposal to deal with some of these issues and maybe questioning the truthfulness and the intention there. I think it’s very relevant there.”
And I'm not even going to get into the Obama as Antichrist lobby.
But then at the debate, not only was there no suggestion at all that he might be a Winged Messenger of the Devil ready to bring on the End of Time, there wasn't even any mention of Obama's alleged Weather Underground side. Might it be that McCain didn't want to have the notion killed by being publicly humiliated with the truth of the matter? That being, that Obama served on a couple boards with a middle-aged guy who was once - 40 years ago - involved with a very popular movement opposing a very unpopular war, albeit in an extremist way. They worked together, barely, on matters of local Chicago policy, having to do with juvenile reform programs, and education initiatives. Radical things like that.
The answer to my hypothetical question would appear to be: Yes. Because if they'd dealt with these questions at the debate, then McCain (well, the RNC in this case) would have had a harder time selling jewels like this to the public.
But let's face it - the reverse is true too. Obama could have brought up the Ayers factor himself, and the deceit involved in the GOP's references to it, but he didn't. He won't come right out and call McCain old and out of touch during the debates either, though he doesn't hold back in his campaign appearances and some of his ads (and some of his supporters' blogs go right down the "dottering old fool" path.)
And while we're on it: since when is the assertion that the Weathermen were a 'terrorist organization' and nothing more, with no historical context discussed, something that we should just accept blindly?
Yeah, that whole blind acceptance thing rubs me the wrong way in general.
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Happy New Year everybody.
Me, I'm celebrating with a one-game playoff for the American League Central Division title.
What I am NOT celebrating is Christmas. Not yet. Why would I? It's September. And yet, when one of the VPs brought in some M&Ms to the office today, they were the Green and Red 'Holiday' version. New record for extending the Christmas marketing season, in my experience. Sheesh!
Friday, September 26, 2008
Those of you interested in graphic art and design, and uberhip toys, may be interested to know that Jeremyville is having a signing on Thursday Oct. 2, at Kidrobot New York (Soho store). Mr. Ville has been written up in a bunch of the art zines, and designed for all kinds of rad events and clients.
Here's Nightmare in Jeremyville, one of the things he'll be signing next week.
Sunday, September 21, 2008
Tonight, you may be aware, the Yankees and the Orioles are playing the final game that will ever be played in Yankee Stadium.
I'm a Red Sox fan. You all know this. I've been one for many years, and I'm proud of it. Which normally means that I'm rooting for a) the Red Sox and b) whoever is playing the Yankees. But not tonight. Tonight, I want the Yanks to win. I want their last appearance in their legendary park to be a victory. Next year - what am I saying? tomorrow - I'll go right back to maintaining that every loss for the Yankees is a victory for civilization, but tonight, I want them to win. I'll even go so far as to say that I want Johnny Damon, a former Red Sox and hero of the '04 Postseason, to be the last Yankee to hit a homer in the Stadium. Mr. Demon may have a special chamber in Hell reserved for him, but it would give me a kind of joy watching him be the hero tonight.
And speaking of heroes, let's take this evening to pay a small tribute to a few of the great Yankees that have given baseball some of their best moments.
First of all has to be the man who Built the Stadium. Another former Red Sox, and one of the greatest ever to play the game. The Sultan of Swat, Babe Ruth.
Career Batting Average .342, Home Runs 714, Slugging Percentage .690 (Major League Record), On-Base Percentage .469. He hit 60 homers in a single season, and was by far the most dominant power hitter of his time, some would say of all time. And, incredibly, he was an exceptional pitcher as well. Still holds the record for longest complete game victory in a World Series (as a Red Sox, as it happens) for the 1916 game in which he held the Brooklyn Robins to 1 run over 14 innings. 14!! But it was those homers that made him arguably the most feared player of all time. By way of perspective, he regularly hit more home runs himself than entire Major League Teams. Including the Red Sox, for 10 out of the 12 years immediately following his sale to the Yankees.
[Side note - if there ever was a curse, people, we broke it in 2004. I like to think that we broke it in Utah, while we were simultaneously reversing the Curse of the Scottish Play, but that's another story...]
The Pride of the Yankees, Ruth's teammate, Lou Gehrig.
His sadly shortened career saw a Batting Average of .340 and On-Base Percentage of .442. Won the Triple Crown in 1934. He was a great team leader, and held a record that people called unbreakable when I was growing up - he played in 2,130 consecutive games without a day off for any reason. Although the great Cal Ripkin, Jr. did break that record in '95, it scarcely diminishes Gehrig's achievement, especially when you consider that Lou suffered 17 hand fractures during that stretch of games. And of course that iconic Farewell Speech. It's tough to find a player harder to dislike than Lou Gehrig.
The Yankee Clipper - Gehrig's teammate Joe Dimaggio.
Career Batting Average .325, he was a top-notch outfielder and baserunner as well as a great hitter. The Yankees had some of their best seasons, and won the World Series in each of his first four seasons in the majors. He was a three-time American League Most Valuable Player, and might have been so honored more than that if he hadn't served in the military for three years during World War II. He had another one of the records that people sometimes call unbreakable - in 1941 he had an unparalleled 56-game hitting streak. Since then, only Pete Rose has had a streak even as long as 40 games. Less heralded, after that one game when he didn't get a hit, he then had another 17-game streak, meaning that he hit safely in 73 of 74 games. Some people call him the greatest ever, and while I don't necessarily agree, I can see where they're coming from.
The Mick, Dimaggio's teammate Mickey Mantle.
Whether he's the greatest of all time or not, he's he's a whole lot of people's favorite player. His Career Batting Average was 'only' .298 over 18 seasons, but his On-Base Percentage was .422, he hit 18 home runs in 12 World Series (think about that - 12 World Series in 18 seasons!) and hit 536 home runs over the course of his career, including some of the longest balls ever hit. He had a great glove and an arm like a cannon. He was a big guy, but one of the fastest baserunners of his time, evidenced in his trademark drag bunts - how many power hitters bunt effectively these days? Amazing in the clutch, hitting from both sides of the plate, the poster boy for hard work and playing through pain (and maybe for hard drinking and good-ol'-boy hellraising too).
Ok, up to now you won't get much argument from anyone on these choices. I think just about everyone you'd ask would mention those four guys when you ask about the greatest Yankees of all time. But who's going to get the fifth spot? Yogi Berra, who was on 10 World Series-winning teams? Whitey Ford, who won 236 games (including a record 10 World Series games) and threw 1,956 strikeouts? Possibly even a current player like Mariano Rivera, with 480 saves (and counting) and a 1.16 World Series ERA.
With all respect to those greats, I'm going to go with Mr. October, Reggie Jackson.
Yes, I have a sentimental weakness for a man who was one of my favorites growing up, but - 563 Homers, 1,702 RBI, and performance in the clutch that led to 5 World Series Championships and of course those three home runs on not just three at-bats, but three swings of the bat in game 6 in 1977 - an almost indescribable achievement. I think it's a defensible choice. [And as it happens, Joe Morgan just backed me up with his inclusion of Jackson on his own personal top Yankees list.] The only thing that makes me second guess this is that, unlike the Berra, Ford and Rivera, more than half of Jackson's career was for teams other than the Yankees (including 3 of those Series wins - with the Oakland A's.) Still, it's the Yankees who retired his number, and the pinstripes he's wearing in the Hall of Fame.
Sure, it's easier to say all these pro-Yankee things now that they are essentially (though not mathematically - remember '78) out of the running for the season and there's slim to no chance that there will be some horrific reprisal at the House that Ruth Built. And you may notice that there is one particular personage whose name will go unmentioned in this entry. And we're not even getting into the Stones concerts and boxing matches and Papal appearances. But I'm a baseball fan even before I'm a Red Sox fan, and the ballpark in the Bronx deserves a tip of the cap.
As a postscript - the Yankees won, beating the Orioles 7-3. Johnny Damon did hit a four-bagger last night, but not the last one. That honor goes to Jose Molina. Who knew? Not a titan of power at all - this was his third home run of the year - or even the Yanks regular catcher but for the fact that Jorge Posada is injured. But history is made up of singular occurrences as well as larger-than-life figures. So Molina gets to be a trivia answer that will be harder to come up with than Jeter or Rodriguez would be. But not for you...
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
This was taken from some writing I did the evening of 9/9, the night of my Rainier hike.
Got a late start today, and had a bit of a wrangle with the GPS, which took me through a bizarre maze of suburbia before finally leading to the highway, then led me to do some truly inexplicable things like exit the highway only to re-enter it immediately. And it was really unhappy with me about the route I chose to take and kept chirping at me about it, so - "F you GPS, you're going in the glove compartment." Which actually felt kind of good.
As I approached Rainier, I realized that I might not have enough time to drive down to the Paradise trailhead, and so made the impromptu decision to hike Sunrise instead. The drive itself was pretty incredible - I'd round a corner to face what appeared to be a vertical wall of evergreens. The road is carved into some truly fantastic landscape.
And the hike was awesome, of course. After a small inner debate, I opted to go for one of the "strenuous" hikes: not too long, distance-wise, but pretty steep at parts, with 1000 feet of elevation handled in just over 5 miles, and starting at 6,700 feet. After the first half mile or so, which was one of the most sustained steep inclines of the whole hike, I got over my "man, you haven't hiked at altitude for a while!" feelings, found my rhythm, just took in the landscape and communed with it.
Met some kind people - a senior citizen in the parking lot who was fascinated by my camelback; a father and son who make annual trips to Ranier from Seattle (credit the father for that photo of me); a through-hiking couple whom I was able to help with directions (!) and a couple of guys who may or may not have been stoned whom I wasn't.
Faced a couple of along-the-way decisions of the "do I take the short route back? do I extend this hike"-variety, and one or two "wait - am I still on the right trail??" moments. I was on the right trail, I kept going, and I did extend the hike a little, though not by much. The most significant crossroads came at the spot where I met the couple I was able to direct. Could have gone with them through the backpackers' campsite, which would have been a fine hike, if slightly foreshortened. Or I could make what was visibly a pretty steep ascent and continue around the Burroughs Mountains. I went for it, and it was definitely the most challenging & rewarding part of the hike. The landscape was tundra, very rocky and rugged, only the hardiest vegetation. Very very cool, but this was when I started really feeling it in my legs. It was an almost 3/4 mile climb, followed by a mellow stretch and then by a not-quite-as steep descent. The views all along were spectacular and stunning, but this was also the part of the hike where I felt the solitude the most. This was by far the rockiest and most hazardous part of the trip: a good chunk of the descent was a narrow (3'-4') path bordered by loose rock and leading to an extremely steep decline of nothing but jagged rock. Not good for those suffering vertigo: "one false move could really ruin your day" territory. Slipped on a loose rock and realized that I'd be in for a rough time if I had a fall or even pulled a muscle at this point.
Looking up from the trail:
Knocked- down sign:
Greenest lake ever:
I reached a spot with a short wall built on a curve - fantastic view/photo op. So, shoot I did, including a timer shot of moi.
When I got going again, I checked the time. Holy crap! 10 to 5. A good 20 or 30 minutes later than I'd thought it was, and I still had... well, I wasn't quite sure how much longer I had. But I knew I wanted to make it to the campsite well before sundown, as I'm not exactly the most experienced camper out there.
Number of times I've gone camping alone: Zero.
So I picked up the pace (easier once I got to some more earth-like ground) and kept the camera shouldered. May have missed afew good shots along the way, but I got plenty of images. The final what turned out to be about a mile & a half went very swiftly, and I came into the parking lot feeling very alive.